Friday Feature – 2/26/10

Hello and Happy Friday!

Before we get started today, a quick scheduling note. Tomorrow (Saturday, February 27th), Perman Wine will have shortened hours, opening at 11 am and closing at 6 pm. My lovely, brilliant wife will be in charge of the store while I travel this weekend to Montreal. She will be armed with pre–packed “Six for $60’s.” I will also be closed on Monday, March 1st, while I travel back. Sorry for any inconvenience this causes.

Now, it is time to get down to business! If you haven’t heard of the “six for $60” it is about time you did! It is pretty simple, a monthly sampler featuring six recently tasted and Craig approved wine values. Together these six individual bottles cost only $60 (excluding tax).

The “six for $60” is highly recommend to those learning about wines, trying to stock their wine rack with affordable and tasty adult beverages, or wanting to bring a gift to someone hosting a party.

So how does this work? To order simply e–mail me back and say “Hey Craig, hook me up.” To join the devoted legions of fans who receive them every month you can just say “and keep ’em coming!” All of the wines are available by the bottle or case, but for total jubilation just do the whole sampler. Some people are challenged by some of the wines that I put in to my sampler. If Grenache from Navarra makes you sneeze, Gros Manseng has been banned from your household, or you just simply hate something I am offering, I will substitute and try to get the sampler as close to $60 as possible.

A suggestion to those folks trying to learn from this as well as get a buzz, print out a copy of the newsletter to keep with your sampler. That way when you are in the mood for a bottle you have your own mini wine lesson on hand. So what are you waiting for? Order yours today!

This sampler, which may be my best ever, is in stock and ready to be picked up or shipped out!

Have a great weekend,


While Rioja’s dominance helped make Tempranillo, Spain’s most famous grape, the fact is that Garnacha (a synonym for what the French call Grenache) is the most planted varietal. Another fact is that this red varietal makes for many a delicious value. I need more than both my hands to count the amount of great value Garnacha from Spain that I taste on a yearly basis.

Grenache stretches from Catalunya in the northeast, all the way to north–central Spain in regions like Rioja and Navarra. Each appellation produces a little bit of a different style of Garnacha, which goes to show that it is a nuanced varietal which adapts to its soil and micro–climate.

Navarra the region that is home to the famed city of Pamplona is a prominent appellation for Garnacha. While co–operatives dominated the scene in this area for many years, in 1996 famed Rioja producer, Artadi decided to start a winery in the northern part of Navarra.

Artadi’s winemaker, Juan Carlos López de la Calle was moved by the old vines he found, not to mention the fact that the area was at a higher elevation, which meant for cooler nights and a fresher style of Garnacha.

The ’08 Artazuri Garnacha is an entry–level wine that comes from 40+ year–old vines, and is aged for six months in old oak barrels. There is a reason why year in and year out, this garners 90 point scores from every major reviewer. Dollar for dollar it may be Spain’s best value in Garnacha.

Very aromatic with high–toned notes of strawberry, cherry and pepper. The red fruits continue through on the palate, and never get overwhelming or too candied. The finish is fresh, remarkably long, and just plain fun to drink.
$10.00 BTL. / $120.00 CASE


What’s more fun than Gros Manseng? So your saying this French varietal doesn’t roll off your tongue when listing your favorites? Well, it is about time it did.

Gros Manseng is a varietal found mainly in the Gascony region of southwest France. It is said to be of Basque origins, and offers big aromatics and flavors. It can be vinified dry or sometimes it is see in botrytized versions.

One of my go to producers for delicious dry Gros Manseng year in and year out is that of Domaine des Cassagnoles. There is no real fancy story behind this winery. Just a hard working family that owns 76 hectares of vineyards, which used to find its way into Armagnac and Floc de Gascogne. In the early ’80’s white wine production slowly became the mainstay, with a wide range of wines produced.

The 2008 Reserve Selection is going to soon become a favorite of yours. Really pretty aromatics combining classic apricot notes along with citrus peel, and hints of herbs. Bright acidity, with some weight and richness, this is something to pair with simply prepared fish like halibut or even trout.
$10.00 BTL. / $120.00 CASE


I like writing, believe me I do. But sometimes you have to let others do the talking. When I contacted Bruce Neyers, who is the national sales director for Kermit Lynch to get more info on this wine and the Vin de Pays du Vaucluse below, he sent very nice notes that I felt I must use. Here is a great introduction to the wines of Eric Chevalier.

“Eric Chevalier comes from the same mold that gave us Marcel Lapierre of Morgon, André Ostertag of Alsace, Didier Barral of Faugères and Sylvain Fadat of d’Aupilhac. All are vignerons with long family traditions, but they sought more from their love of wine and found it, in each case, by following a different path.

Eric’s family is from Muscadet, and they own vines there and make wine from that appellation. Eric sensed there was a bit more to be had outside of the tradition, however, and found a parcel of old vine Chardonnay that made wine that was interesting to him. As a Vin de Pays, he discovered, he could sell it for a low price and get attention. It certainly got Kermit’s.

He found a parcel of Sauvignon Gris as well, old vines again, but in this instance vines scheduled to be torn out and replanted. He took over the parcel and now makes one of the most fascinating versions of this varietal we’ve tasted. Remember this, because there are a number of talented vignerons who are working with this variety, and you can expect to see more of it in the future.

Here we have a young, obviously gifted winemaker, trying to break free of the traditions surrounding him, while at the same time respecting them enough to want to add to them. People like that deserve our support and encouragement.”

This wine has beautiful purity, and ultimately deserves a very simply prepared dinner of grilled fish, or simple goat and cows milk cheeses. This is being offered at a great price to make room for the next vintage, and is drinking perfectly.
$9.00 BTL. / $108.00 CASE


Again, Bruce Neyers weighs in…

“A few years ago, Kermit learned that the Leydier family, proprietors of the celebrated Domaine Durban Muscat Beaume de Venise, owned a parcel of red vines – mostly Grenache and Syrah – in the hills adjacent to their plantings of Muscat, just northeast of Beaume de Venise.

The vineyards are at about the same elevation as Sang des Cailloux and lie just a few kilometers to the east of Vacqueyras, in an area that is called simply Côtes du Rhône Villages.

As soon as the family could arrange for the local Co–op to release the grapes, they produced the wine themselves, we began to import it, and it’s been a huge success ever since.

Darker, more flavorful and simply more interesting than the other Côtes du Rhône bottlings we bring in, the Durban Côtes du Rhône Villages has developed a following of loyal supporters, one of whom referred to it recently as a ‘mini-Vacqueyras.’ One vintage of it even received an ‘important’ score from Robert Parker, an 89 or a 90, I believe, but I forget which. But that’s not why I write.

At the same time that Kermit began to import the Leydier family’s Côtes du Rhône Villages, he learned that they had a smaller but equally interesting parcel of vines still further to the east, outside of even the Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation, a Vin de Table that they were not allowed to Domaine bottle.

This too was produced in their newly built red wine facility, but the small quantity we brought in annually invariably went to the group of buyers who tasted the wine during my January trip to France. Well, to the point of my story, we have some good news as yet another parcel has now been released from the local Co–operative and the production has increased significantly, to almost 1000 cases.

We sold 500 of those cases while visiting Durban last month, and the remaining inventory is available to those hearty souls who act quickly. The wine is labeled with the Selection par Kermit Lynch label, and is not identified as Domaine Durban. Dark colored, full–bodied and loaded with spicy flavors, it calls to mind one of those old bottlings of Domaine de la Gautiere from a good year like the 1990 or the 1995.”

Think rustic French here, drink with duck, beef, preferably in a hearty stew format.
$9.00 BTL. / $108.00 CASE


The wines of Valle Reale from the Abruzzo region of Italy have been a house favorite here at Perman Wine for a while. Many of you may have heard me wax poetic about how Valle Reale makes Montepulciano of great elegance and purity because of their location farther inland, within a notably cooler micro–climate.

So I won’t bore you by repeating myself, but will tell you that the new vintage of their best buy, “Vigne Nuove” was a must add to this month’s sampler. A great introduction to the estate, the grapes that go into this wine come from their youngest vines in Popoli. To offer the freshness of these vines, Valle Reale vinifies and rests the wine in stainless steel.

This is Montepulciano in a bikini, a wine that shows off its potential and is something you will want to have on almost every occasion. Bright notes of cherry, mint, mineral and a touch of pepper on the nose and palate. You always ask about pizza / pasta wines, well here you have a great one at a great price.
$11.00 BTL. / $132.00 CASE


For a while this sampler was turning into the Malbec of the month club. Then seemingly came a Tempranillo every month. Well now I have inundated you with Monastrell from the southern Mediterranean coast of Spain.

Here folks is the King of all inexpensive Monastrell from Casa Castillo. Many inexpensive Monastrell from Murcia come from co–ops and sometimes can be just average. Casa Castillo is a single estate that strives to make wine representative of the area and its traditions. How much do they believe in this? Enough to leave their previous importer because he was pushing to make more international style wines. A very smart move.

Their basic Monastrell is as delicious as they come, with controlled temperature fermentation in tank followed by maturation in French and American oak barrels for no more than six months.

The result is a really complex look into the varietal. Rich black and red fruits on the nose with a full–bodied and complex palate full of dark fruit, spice, and hints at chocolate. This finishes fresh and long, never fatiguing the palate. This screams for red meat, and really, why deny it?
$11.00 BTL. / $132.00 CASE

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